The GCSE Survival Guide: How to Do Well on the Day

Even if you’ve spent the last 6 months revising and learning everything you can, there’s always going to be some nerves heading into the exam room. Exams are stressful things, and lots of people show signs of anxiety and nervousness when they arrive.


But nerves can also affect how you perform. It’s not ideal to spend your time revising just to fall at the last hurdle. But how do you stay calm under pressure? And what’s the best way to deal with exam nerves? How do you revise properly? We’ll answer those questions and more in our GCSE Survival Guide. Keep reading to learn how to become a GCSE exam survival expert!



Exam Nerves: What Are They?


Let’s talk about exam nerves.


We’ve all been there. Whether it was a mock or a full-on GCSE exam, there’s nothing worse than sitting in your chair and realizing that you have no idea what to write.


Feeling nervous is actually just a biological response in your body. Your body’s stress response starts up because of hormone releases. Your body does this because it believes that there is a threat that is closeby.


At this point you enter ‘fight or flight mode’. Your adrenaline starts to rise, your mouth begins to dry, your breathing becomes short and fast, and your heart beat increases. All of these elements together make you feel nervous or anxious.


It’s not a position anyone wants to be in. Luckily, by revising properly and training yourself to keep calm, you won’t end up feeling lost in the middle of the exam hall.


Just remember: it’s your body’s natural response. Once you realize that, you should find that your nerves start to decrease.


Expert Tips for GCSE Revision & GCSE Exam Prep:


Revise ASAP!


You don’t need to cram to do well in an exam. In fact, cramming will probably mean you do significantly worse as you try to force yourself to learn and eventually burnout.


It might sound obvious, but start revising as soon as possible. That way you can do less hours a day over a longer period. You’ll feel more confident and you’ll still have time for the things you enjoy.


Use memory devices


A key way to remember things once you’re in the exam are memory devices. Memory devices come in many different forms, but they all help you to remember key bits of information in a condensed form. They are also called mnemonics.


One famous mnemonic is for the celestial bodies of the solar system: My Very Easy Method Just Shows Us Nine Planets (for Mercury Venus Earth Mars Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune Pluto).


Another example in Science is OIL RIG (electrons) Oxidation is loss, Reduction is gain.


If you’re talented with music you can come up with little tunes to help you remember things. Similarly, if you’re good at writing stories, you can come up with stories that include information within the story. For example, Jack walked to the white chapel and saw 18 dogs and 88 geese could be used to remember the Jack the Ripper Whitechapel murders in 1888.


Feed your brain


You might not realize it, but changing up your diet can actually help your brain function and memory recall. If you don’t eat properly, you can actually worsen your mental abilities and even start to struggle to memorize key information.


According to the BBC, these 10 foods are the best to promote good brain health:


  • Whole grains - release energy slowly throughout the body

  • Oily fish - contains lots of omega-3, which is reported to help long-term memory

  • Blueberries - recent studies suggest they increase mental skills due to vitamin-C

  • Broccoli - healthy all round, but has vitamin-k which helps cognition

  • Nuts - has plenty of vitamin-E, which is used to help elderly memory loss

  • Tomatoes - has the chemical lycopene, which is said to help prevent dementia and cognitive disease

  • Sage - sage essential oil is said to improve memory

  • Blackcurrants - includes tons of vitamin-C

  • Vitamins - deficiency in B6, B12 and folic acid can leave you feeling hazy and forgetful. Take vitamins to ensure you’re getting the nutrition you need.


Include any of these into your diet, but make sure that you’re eating well and eating frequently. Don’t binge on snacks, but don’t deprive yourself of treats either. It’s important that you stay well-fed with lots of fruits, vegetables, and plenty of water.


Make an exam schedule


Depending on the GCSEs you chose, you might have periods where you have multiple exams on one day, or you might even have no exams at all on some days.


The best way to prepare and manage your time is through an exam schedule. It can be as simple or as complex as you like, but it needs to display where your exam is being held, what day it’s being held on, and what time it starts.


It’s also good to note how long your exam is. For example, some exams run for 2 hours, whilst others may only run for 1 hour. This will help you know how much food and drink to have beforehand, and how quickly you’ll need to get through the questions.


To make a simple schedule, get a copy of your exam list from your school (once available) and take an A4 sheet of paper. Using a ruler, draw a 5x7 grid of squares like a calendar.


Going across the top on the horizontal axis, write the days of the week from Monday-Sunday. Using your phone’s calendar or a calendar in your home, write the dates for your exam month in the corresponding boxes.


Then simply put the info of each of your exams into your new calendar. Remember: don’t just make a reminder on your phone! Your exam materials should be separate to your phone, because if your phone is lost, broken or out of battery, you won’t have access to the things you need!


Beware of burnout


Burnout can occur when you push yourself to work as hard as possible but don’t take time for yourself. You might feel encouraged by friends to focus solely on your upcoming exams, but your wellbeing also matters.


Take a breather, make sure you wash regularly and don’t forget to eat. GCSEs are important, but your health is the most important thing.


Give Yourself A Stress-free Exam Day


With our comprehensive revision materials, guides and tips on everything GCSEs, you’re guaranteed to feel great on the day of your exams. From Maths, English to Science, there’s materials on all your GCSE subjects.


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